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Review: Warcraft

Warcraft
06.08.2016
4 10

Warcraft movie review Duncan Jones Travis Fimmel Paula Patton Toby Kebbel

PLOT: Worlds collide when an army of orcs flee their dying land and encroach on a civilization of humans.

REVIEW: For a movie about mystical realms, fantastical creatures and great battles between man and monster, WARCRAFT is disappointingly short on imagination and enjoyment. It's a movie only a console could love: Practically every frame is filled to the brim with CG craftsmanship, but someone left out the fun. Some will chalk that up to its being based on a video game, but I like to think that's no excuse. It shouldn't matter what the source material is, or whether or not your movie is 99% visual effects, because anything can be made good if enough attention is given to the characters and story. (Look at Jon Favreau's JUNGLE BOOK, which is all CGI and still great.) But WARCRAFT is a hollow shell, grimly depicting a series of events and battles that strain to involve us but can't because they've never given us any reason to care. The characters aren't interesting and their plights are recycled from dozens of familiar sources.

Warcraft movie review Duncan Jones Travis Fimmel Paula Patton Toby Kebbel

Whether or not players of the game (I am not one) will follow the film with more enthusiasm than the rest of us is arguable, and also beside the point. I don't doubt the filmmakers behind WARCRAFT aim to please their target audience, but they've also spent a lot of money on this thing hoping it'll cross over and indoctrinate a new subset of the population. After all, the film's tone and atmosphere appear to be just as inspired by titles like LORD OF THE RINGS and Game of Thrones than the Warcraft games it's based on. But the script is clunky in the extreme and director Duncan Jones (MOON) clearly struggles with all of the tech on his hands, unable to find a heart within all the VFX splendor.

The plot is not very complicated at all, even though the characters - human and orc alike - run circles around each other with pointless exposition throughout the majority of the film. (There's a lot of talking in WARCRAFT but not a lot of momentum.) In the land of Draenor, a civilization of Orcs seeks to flee their dying world and take over a new one. A powerful orc named Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), recently infused with a dark magic called the Fel, brings all of the orc clans together and leads them through a portal into Azeroth, home of the humans, determined to wipe them all out. On that side of things we're introduced to Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a military commander who's sister (Ruth Negga) is married to the king of Stormwind (Dominic Cooper). After it becomes obvious a new species is invading their territory, Lothar and a young mage Khadger (Ben Schnetzer) seek the help of a wizard named Medivh (Ben Foster), who acts as guardian of the kingdom and also the primary announcer of grave proclamations. He indeed can confirm that a battalion of orcs - referred to as the Horde - is gunning for their land. Worse yet, all humans will be enslaved and eventually drained of life in order to fuel Gul'dan and his portal.

Warcraft movie review Duncan Jones Travis Fimmel Paula Patton Toby Kebbel

If there's little energy to be found in that brief synopsis, it's a reflection of the movie's inability to dredge up any feeling of wonderment during these proceedings. Maybe it's just assumed that we as an audience have seen it all before, so there's no use trying to stimulate us with yet another fantasy world filled with hulking beasts carrying battleaxes, but WARCRAFT just drops us onto a moving train and expects us to immediately devote our attention to this situation. The humans are barely given any context beyond what the script quickly blurts out (I kept wondering who these people actually are); it seems like it's enough to just have a character call another "old friend" and be done with expanding upon their relationship. The orcs aren't much luckier, although the only character in the film who earns a molecule of our sympathy is Durotan (Toby Kebbell), a chieftain who sees Gul'dan for the evil despot that he is. A brief attempt on Durotan's part to forge an alliance with the humans is the one sequence WARCRAFT has that hints at an engrossing development.

If I'm harping on the characters too much, there isn't a lot to say about the action. The battles are adequate, but once again it all reeks of "been there, done that," as an army of pixels knocks up against a bunch of guys clearly standing in front of a green screen. There are films of this sort that rise to the occasion and allow us to suspend disbelief in order to become immersed in a world such as this one, and WARCRAFT never gets there. Yes, some of the visuals are impressive and a lot of man-hours were no doubt spent on them, but that's just surface-level appreciation. WARCRAFT might make a great screensaver, but it's not a great cinematic experience. (And I saw it in IMAX 3D.)

Warcraft movie review Duncan Jones Travis Fimmel Paula Patton Toby Kebbel

If WARCRAFT has one quirky element worth noting, it's Fimmel's performance. Looking either drunk or high or both, Fimmel appears to be channeling young Brad Pitt with a bevy of odd quirks and tics. It's possible Fimmel saw that Lothar is a boring protagonist and decided to spice the character up by bringing this element of weirdness to the forefront; whatever the case, he's certainly amusing. The rest of the cast is typically stern-faced and glum; no one seems to be enjoying themselves. That goes double for Paula Patton who, as a halfbreed orc, looks exceedingly uncomfortable contending with fake teeth that jut out of her mouth. Considering how out-of-it they both look, the attempts to get sparks flying between Fimmel's daft human and Patton's angry orc-woman are foolhardy at best, tough to watch at worst.

It's said that Duncan Jones has a cut of WARCRAFT that is 40 minutes longer that will presumably add some character development and build up this universe, which at the moment is boring and ill-defined. (Indeed, it's obvious chunks of the movie were left on the cutting room floor.) I can't say I'm interested to see it. I've been to the world of WARCRAFT, I know much of what it has to offer. Invite me to spend more time there and I'll be busy watching my LOTR boxset.

Source: JoBlo.com

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